Steps to get started with exercise

Diabetes and exercise

Being active can help you manage your diabetes by keeping your blood glucose levels (BGLs) within your target range and helping you to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. It also helps you to relieve stress, sleep better, feel fitter, have stronger bones and is an opportunity to interact with your family and friends and meet new people. 

The National Physical Activity Guidelines for Australian Adults recommend: 

  • Think of movement as an opportunity, not an inconvenience. 
  • Be active every day in as many ways as you can. 
  • Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days. 
  • Do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days per week 
  • Break up long periods of sitting as often as possible, and 
  • If possible, also enjoy some regular, vigorous activity for extra health and fitness. 

Step 1 – Start small

Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. If you are new to exercise, start off by doing small sessions of your chosen activity – just 10-minute bouts are enough to gain benefit. Gradually, as your fitness improves, increase this to 30-60 minutes.  

Step 2 – Move more

Adults are recommended to be active on most, preferably all, days of the week. Exercise done consistently throughout the week helps to improve the body’s ability to use glucose for energy. Research shows this effect only lasts for 24-72 hours though, so we need to do it regularly! 

Step 3 – Understand intensity  

How ‘intense’ your exercise is impacts upon how often it is recommended you do that activity. 

Which is your preferred exercise intensity level? 

  • Moderate intensity exercise – If you are “lightly puffing” and you can hold a short conversation – you’re exercising at a moderate intensity. The guidelines recommend you do between 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week. 
  • Vigorous intensity exercise – You would be short of breath but able to speak up to one sentence if you’re doing vigorous intensity exercise, which is a little more difficult to sustain than moderate intensity exercise. The guidelines recommend you undertake between 75-150 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise each week. 

Why not mix it up? Try doing both moderate and vigorous activity each week to make up the recommended amount and to keep it interesting! 

Remember, it’s not just what exercise we do – but how we do it that will help improve our health. Exercise that is too light may not give you the recommended health benefits while exercise that is too hard can place you at risk of over-training and injury. 

Step 4 – Include resistance activities 

Undertake muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week. Strengthening activities include anything that requires your body to move against a weight or gravity. This would include activities such as lifting tins of food, repeated sitting and standing from a chair or seated leg raises. 

Step 5 – Stand, don’t sit 

Minimise the amount of time spent in prolonged sitting. Break up long periods of sitting as often as possible. Meet a friend for a walking date rather than a coffee, stand on public transport rather than sit or ask whether your workplace can provide standing workstations. 

Join our community of over 33,000 people living with diabetes